ANTI PYLON REACTION

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Padraig O’Reilly NEPPC Pic.Michael Fisher

Anti-pylon action will dwarf Shell to Sea campaign, says NEPPC
Group says campaign against EirGrid will make Corrib protests ‘look like walk in park’

Michael Fisher THE IRISH TIMES

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Anti-pylon sign in Co.Meath  Pic. Michael Fisher

Campaigners have warned that the battle to stop the erection of hundreds of electricity pylons will make the Shell to Sea campaign “look like a walk in the park”.
Responding furiously to An Bord Pleanála’s decision to approve EirGrid’s plans to build a North South electricity interconnector, the North East Pylon Pressure Campaign (NEPPC) described it as “deplorable” and “an affront to democracy”.
Describing it as “biased”, Padraig O’Reilly, of the NEPPC, claimed it would only deepen public cynicism towards bureaucracy and intensify local opposition to the pylons.
However, he drew comfort from the fact that the project still has to navigate Northern Ireland’s planning system, while court battles will continue in both jurisdictions.
Woefully inadequate
A “viable, realistic and publicly acceptable option” to put much of the electricity line underground along public roads does exist, but it has never been properly examined, he went on. However, EirGrid had already decided on an overhead line and had put out, and awarded, a contract tender even before public consultation had taken place, he charged. EirGrid’s planning application was woefully inadequate and failed to contain enough information for an acceptable environmental study, he claimed.

Meanwhile, the utility had not accessed 75 per cent of the lands proposed for the 300 pylon towers and had communicated with only 5 per cent of the landowners, he added.
The planning decision ignores these deficiencies and heralds the end of An Bord Pleanála’s status in the public eye as an objective, independent decision-making body, he continued.

However, the anti-pylon group insists that there is still time for EirGrid to be ordered by Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Denis Naughten to place the lines underground. “If political action is not taken, this project will make the Shell to Sea debacle look like a walk in the park. The will of the people will prevail,” said the NEPPC.

Meanwhile, opponents in Monaghan are equally determined in their opposition, saying An Bord Pleanála had “waved the application through”. “It’s a bad day for the Irish planning system,” said Nigel Hillis, who was particularly critical of the decision to issue such a finding so close to Christmas.

Monaghan County Council chairman PJ O’Hanlon described it as “very unfortunate” and supported calls for an emergency council meeting early in January.
There, councillors – who are all united against the pylon plan – will, he said, examine the ruling in detail and look at ways to oppose it.

Opponents in Northern Ireland remain hopeful that the planning authorities there will make a different decision when they rule on the pylon plan.
“We are disappointed at this ruling by An Bord Pleanála,” said a spokesperson for the campaign group, Safe Electricity Armagh and Tyrone (SEAT).

EIRGRID AT ORAL HEARING

EIRGRID’S TEAM WAS WELL PREPARED FOR ORAL HEARING

 Michael Fisher  Northern Standard Thursday 2nd June p.14

Throughout the oral hearing in Carrickmacross into the proposed North/South electricity interconnector, EirGrid had a team of up to forty people lined up to address the inspectors. Each was not present every day for the thirty-five days of the proceedings and some were relied on more heavily than others to make the case for the 400kV overhead line and 300 pylons stretching from Meath to Tyrone, through Cavan and Monaghan. They included staff members and consultants and their contributions were led by a legal team.

EIRGRID TEAM:

 THE LAWYERS

JARLATH FITZSIMONS SC is a well-known barrister practising in the area of planning and environmental law. He is a former lecturer in Law at Trinity College, Dublin.

BRIAN MURRAY SC has been a Senior Counsel since 2002 and has a particular expertise in the area of constitutional law and company law. He has been involved in many high profile cases and has appeared in inspection, restriction and disqualification cases on behalf of the Director of Corporate Enforcement. Educated at Trinity College Dublin and Cambridge University, he previously lectured in company law at Trinity College Dublin.

STEPHEN DODD, Junior Counsel is a practising barrister. He has written widely on commercial, planning and other areas of law. He is the author of the Consolidated and Annotated Planning and Development Regulations 2001/2005 (Round Hall, 2005) and the Consolidated and Annotated Planning and Development Acts 2000/2007 (Round Hall, 2008).

DEIRDRE NAGLE, Senior Solicitor, EirGrid

A highly dedicated senior planning and environmental lawyer, with extensive experience in advising on legal matters within the energy industry. A member of the GC Powerlist: Ireland for 2015. As Senior Solicitor, she has ensured the provision of a legal services across the EirGrid Group, while managing a significant case load.

EIRGRID STAFF

DES COX, Senior Planning Consultant EirGrid. He was educated at Trinity College Dublin BA Mod geography and sociology and at UCD where he obtained a Master’s degree in regional and urban planning (MRUP). He worked for three years as a senior inspector with An Bord Pleanála and was Operational Director for RPS Planning Dublin before joining EirGrid in 2010 as Senior Co-Ordinator Public Planning and Consents.

SHANE BRENNAN, Project Engineer, EirGrid/SONI. A native of Co. Monaghan, he represented the company at the information office in Carrickmacross and has been involved with the Northern Ireland end of the project.

AIDAN GEOGHEGAN, Project Manager. He played a key role in explaining why the company had chosen an overhead line and had ruled out undergrounding.

WILLIAM MONGEY, Senior Engineer, Grid Development. Responsible for the co-ordination of wayleaves.

DR MAEVE FLYNN, Senior Ecologist. Lead Ecologist in the department of Grid Development and Interconnection at EirGrid. Her role is to provide ecological expertise and support to project teams within Grid Development and to promote best practice in ecological impact assessment for projects.

FERGAL McPARLAND, Senior Programme Manager, Transmission Asset Management. An experienced senior projects manager, principal engineer and team leader with a successful track record delivering national renewable and extra high voltage transmission infrastructure projects. Senior Project Manager for delivery of Transmission System Operator (TSO) commerical offers associated with Gate 3, the group renewable processing scheme for over 3000 MW of renewable generation established by the Commission for Energy Regulation. He was educated at UCD (MBA) and the University of Bath (MSc in electrical engineering).

DAVID MARTIN, Senior Communications Specialist. An expert in public relations, he is the senior lead communications specialist at EirGrid. Over the past five years, his role has involved the management of political and stakeholder relations, strategic corporate communications and corporate social responsibility initiatives.

MARK NORTON, Manager Transmission Network Planning.

PHILIP O’DONNELL, Manager Energy System Analysis.

CONSULTANTS

ESB INTERNATIONAL

ROBERT ARTHUR, Senior Consultant, Construction. He made a significant contribution to the EirGrid case, explaining the company’s expertise over more than thirty years of erecting pylons and overhead lines. He was asked to explain details of the proposed method of construction for the pylons. He outlined how they could be built in different terrain, including bogland and on sloping ground. Started his career in 2000 working in EMC testing & EMF Human Health surveys with Compliance Engineering Ireland Limited. Joined ESB International in 2004, dealing with HV Transmission Line Conflicts. Maintained specialist work in EMF field when taking up EMF Specialist role in 2006 within ESBI. Currently High Voltage Transmission Lines & Cables Maintenance Manager within ESBI’s Asset Management Services group. Responsible for a team of 22 staff dealing with overhead transmission line and HV cable maintenance. Educated at DIT and University of Bath (MSc electrical power systems).

JARLATH DOYLE, Senior Consultant, Construction. Project Director 400kV projects. Specialises in design and construction of transmission lines; project management; tower foundation design; material testing and specification; preparation of environmental impact statements. Educated at NUI Galway (BE) and University of Limerick (MBA).

KEVIN COFFEY, Line Routing Specialist.

BRENDAN ALLEN, Senior Planning Consultant.

DR PADDY KAVANAGH, Environmental Director.

EXPONENT:

DR BILL BAILEY, Principal Scientist.

DR GABOR MEZEI, Medical Doctor & Senior Managing Scientist.

RPS:

NEASA KANE-FINE, Senior Communications Specialist.

LEAH KENNY, Operations Director & Director of Planning.

TOBIN:

DAMIEN GREHAN, Director of Energy & Environment.

JOHN DILLON, Senior Environmental Engineer.

DAIREANN McDONNELL, Senior Ecologist.

TOM CANNON, Senior Traffic Engineer.

According to Tobin Consulting Engineers, there is no doubt about the significant benefits that the North/South 400kV interconnection development will bring to the people of Ireland, north and south. It will link the power distribution network in both parts of the island of Ireland, and it will improve competition by reducing the constraints that are restricting the efficient performance of the all-island Single Electricity Market. It will improve security of supply by providing a reliable high capacity link between the two parts of the all-island transmission system; it will support the development of renewable power generation by enhancing the flexible exchange of power flows over a large area of the island and it will specifically reinforce the security of the electricity supply in the North East.

TOBIN is a key member of the consultancy team on this nationally important strategic project. The company brought their GIS capability to route selection along the approximately 60km southern section of the proposed development, screening the entire study area under all constraints such as designated conservation areas, dwellings, surface water features, cultural heritage features, geology and landscape designations. This work enabled the identification of the route corridor options that minimised environmental impact as it ensured the avoidance of the most significant constraints. The Environmental Impact Statement for the Meath section of the indicative route was linked and coordinated with that for the Cavan-Monaghan section prepared by other colleagues. Planning for this development fell under the Strategic Infrastructure Act.

TOBIN’s ornithological team undertook detailed ornithological surveys focusing on the Whooper Swan, over a number of years within Counties Meath, Cavan, Monaghan and Armagh for this project to determine the location of both feeding and roosting sites as well as regularly used flight lines between sites. As part of this study, they completed both field surveys and aerial surveys. TOBIN is the only consultancy to have such expertise within Ireland, possessing the most significant and up-to-date body of national research for this specific species.

The project has drawn its share of controversy, but the TOBIN approach, of presenting the fundamental facts, in a focussed, patient and calm manner, concentrating on the fundamental matters of concern, has been respectful and productive, according to the company. Their consultations have been, in many instances, one-to-one briefings.

AECOM:

AECOM is a large international company providing a blend of global reach, local knowledge, innovation and technical excellence in delivering solutions that create, enhance and sustain the world’s built, natural and social environments.

JOERG SCHULZE, Senior Landscape Architect. He played an important role during the hearing introducing photomontages of critical points along the interconnector route and commenting on the likely effects on the landscape, including sensitive area such as the Hill of Tara. He has over twelve years’ experience as a landscape architect. He has a comprehensive track record in managing the preparation of landscape and visual impact assessments for road schemes, transmission lines (overground and underground), wind farms, substations, quarries, light industrial developments, wave energy units and domestic housing developments throughout the island of Ireland as part of the EIA process. He is also involved on a broad range of projects including master planning and detail design of commercial, residential, tourism and civic developments throughout Ireland. He also manages the production of GIS mapping, photomontages and preparation of ZTV mapping. He has been an expert witness at oral hearings and public inquiries. He is experienced in working closely with other disciplines, stakeholder engagement, community consultations and has organised and participated in public workshops for a number of projects.

BARRY SHERIDAN, Acoustic Consultant. Environmental Engineering Project Manager with fifteen years’ experience in Noise and Vibration Specialism and Environmental Health and Safety.

KEN GLASS, Principal, Community, Tourism & Leisure, Environment & Planning, Ireland & Scotland.

ALISTAIR HENDERSON, Digital Visualiser.

INDIVIDUAL CONSULTANTS

DECLAN MOORE, Principal Archaeologist, Moore Group. He studied Archaeology and English at University College Galway, graduating in 1991. He obtained a certificate in Management Studies in 1994 and became a licence eligible archaeologist in 1999.  Since graduating he has gained over twenty years’ experience as a field archaeologist, site supervisor and consultant. He is a member of the Institute of Archaeologists of Ireland and the European Association of Archaeologists. He founded Moore Group in 2001. His professional experience stems from a comprehensive knowledge of Irish field archaeology, historical research and Irish archaeological legislation. During the hearing he was asked to comment on several sensitive areas for the proposed interconnector such as Teltown and Brittas in Co. Meath and Lemgare and Lough Egish in Co. Monaghan.

CON CURTIN, Agricultural Consultant with almost thirty years’ experience. He has assessed the agronomy impacts on several major infrastructural projects.

TOM CORR, Chartered Valuation Surveyor & Agronomist. A native of Co.Monaghan he has over thirty years’ experience in the areas of property and agriculture and possesses a strong technical knowledge across both areas. He has a major focus on providing creative solutions and ideas to client issues and projects.

PROFESSOR CATHAL WALSH, Chair of Statistics, University of Limerick & member of Insight Statistical Solutions. His research interests include Bayesian modelling, evidence synthesis, disease and epidemic models, and biomedical statistics. He has published over 100 journal publications in these areas. Professor Walsh is also a HRB Research Leader in Health Decision Science. Specific areas in which he has used his expertise are in the modelling of heterogeneity using latent variable models and in combining evidence from multiple sources. He has held visiting appointments in Bayesian groups in Brisbane and in Boston. He contributes to the statistical societies in the UK and Ireland and is currently a member of the Council and theme Director for the Royal Statistical Society. He is an advisor to the National Centre for Pharmacoeconomics on statistical methodology for Health Technology Assessment and on the Scientific Advisory group for HTA for the Health Information and Quality Authority.

MICHAEL SADLIER, Veterinary Surgeon specializing in Equine Management. He gave evidence about horses in the vicinity of power lines and drew up a report for EirGrid on equine psychology and behavior. The substantial body of research on both livestock and other animals did not indicate any adverse effects from transmission lines. There was therefore no scientific basis in the research literature to conclude that the presence of EMF from transmission lines would create conditions that would impair the health of horses or would precipitate abnormal behaviour.

DR PATRICK CRUSHELL, Director & Senior Environmental Consultant, Wetland Surveys Ireland. He gave evidence about the movements of whooper swans and other birds and wildlife. Dr Crushell established Wetland Surveys Ireland in 2007. He received an honours degree in Applied Ecology from UCC, a Masters degree in Environmental Resource Management from UCD and studied for a PhD (Environmental Sciences) at Wageningen University, the Netherlands. The focus of his PhD research was on soak systems of Clara bog, Co. Offaly. His research also took him to the Netherlands, Estonia, Latvia and Argentina. The multidisciplinary approach to his research has given him a broad range of expertise including restoration ecology, eco-hydrology, hydrochemistry, vegetation science and aquatic macro-fauna ecology. He is a Full Member of the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM), adhering to their code of professional conduct. He has been working in the area of nature conservation and ecological assessment for the past 15 years. He has worked as a consultant ecologist in the preparation of Ecological Impact Assessments on over 300 different projects for a range of organisations including government agencies, engineering firms, local environmental groups and NGOs and has appeared as an expert witness on numerous occasions. Dr Crushell’s roles include project management, site surveying, GIS data management and mapping, report compilation and editing, hydrochemistry co-ordinator and data analysis.

DR MARTIN HOGAN, Medical Doctor & Occupational & Environmental Health Specialist. He was called to comment on the effects of power lines on children with autism. Dr Hogan graduated in 1987 at UCC and trained as a specialist in Occupational Health at the University of Manchester. He is the current national specialty Director in Occupational Medicine responsible for training specialist in Occupational Medicine.
Dr Hogan lectures in Occupational Medicine and is a specialist trainer and examiner for the Faculty of Occupational Medicine of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland. He sits on a number of expert committees in the pharmaceutical industry. He is also a consultant occupational health advisor to the Health and Safety Authority in Ireland.

RODNEY FEWINGS, Aviation consultant. Former senior research fellow at Cranfield University, England.

DR NORMAN MacLEOD, Technical Director HVDC, PB Power

THE OBSERVERS

Apart from specified bodies such as Monaghan and Meath and Cavan County Councils, and the public representatives, the main observers were represented by two voluntary groups.

NORTH EAST PYLON PRESSURE CAMPAIGN

DR PADRAIG O’REILLY

AIMEE TREACEY, Chair

DR COLIN ANDREW

Co. MONAGHAN ANTI-PYLON COMMITTEE

NIGEL HILLIS

MARY MARRON

MARGARET MARRON

ALLEN MCADAM

The Bord Pleanála Inspectors who will now report back to the Board after the eleven weeks hearing that began in March were:

BREDA GANNON

DEIRDRE MCGOWAN.

 

 

 

 

INTERCONNECTOR DAY35 MONAGHAN

EIRGRID ACCUSED OF BULLYING LOCAL PEOPLE AS INTERCONNECTOR ORAL HEARING ENDS

DAY THIRTY-FIVE

Closing submissions were made as the oral hearing entered its eleventh week

Michael Fisher  NORTHERN STANDARD  Thursday 26th May p.14

JAMES MCNALLY, Latnakelly, Anyalla, made his submission on Day 34. He said it would be an absolute travesty for the Board to approve such a poorly prepared planning application. His submission dealt with a section of the proposed route from where it would cross the border at Lemgare, near Clontibret, to Cornamucklagh. He said he had identified a number of discrepancies within the Environmental Impact Statement, but had received no credible answers.

He claimed the route selection process was flawed, by EirGrid choosing the “crooked elbow route”, through vulnerable elderly peoples’ property, adding a further 3km to the route and at least 11 or 12 additional pylons for which no rational or verifiable explanation had been provided. There would be a drastic negative impact over a considerable distance on the main tourist asset and local area of natural beauty, “The Monaghan Way” walk, he said.

Mr McNally claimed there had been avoidance of compliance with national and EU Legislation and habitats directives in relation to protected species such as the marsh fritillary butterfly and their habitat, bats, and badgers on the site of one of pylons. He claimed there was potential for the destruction of a nationally recognised site for rare orchids on the “Tassan grasslands”. He said there were three separate erroneous measurements on the distance of the proposed line from Tassan Lough national heritage area.

Regarding the presence of old mine shafts, Mr McNally claimed EirGrid had given no consideration to the risk for toxic lead, zinc, or arsenic run-off, into the ecologically sensitive Tassan Lough area and the potential for poisonous pollution to the local water table as a result of disused mine shaft collapse underneath two of the proposed pylons and other unidentified mine shafts in Lemgare and Annaglough. There was also the omission from the planning maps of a significant poultry unit in Lisdrumgormly. (EirGrid has already given its response on the mines issue, published last week).

EirGrid could not, and would not be allowed to force or coerce the people of Monaghan to accept an overhead powerline, he said. That was a fact that had been well established and emphasised by the numerous oral submissions at the hearing. No amount of posturing, or belittling, of the public submissions, would diminish the landowners’ resolve to have this powerline undergrounded. The community without access to experts, had spoken with one voice. He said it was now up to the inspectors to reflect that voice to the Board for its deliberations, however unpalatable it might seem to EirGrid.

CMAPC SUBMISSIONS

MARGARET MARRON of the County Monaghan Anti-Pylon Committee said for the last nine years since the project was first announced, the process pursued by EirGrid had been very stressful, annoying, frustrating and contrary to what would be expected of a publicly funded organisation. An organisation which she said had used taxpayers’ money arbitrarily to focus exclusively on their own narrow-minded objective, namely to build this powerline overground on pylons, with absolutely no regard for what the affected communities or their political representatives thought.

From the outset, the observers and public concerned, including the landowners, did not sense that procedural justice was high on the list in the oral hearing. Time limits were imposed on public participation and there were constant reminders that the process being conducted was “a fact-finding mission”, not an oral hearing on the application in front of the Board. The landowners were totally dismayed at the inaction of the inspectors in dealing with the “errata” identified in the EIS and the proposed modifications to route access points, the developer being allowed continually to improvise and amend the planning application throughout the hearing process.

CMAPC in association with NEPPC felt there was no alternative but to withdraw from a process which, in the eyes of the landowners, was flawed and biased in favour of the developer. We witnessed the developer being permitted, without hindrance or comment by the presiding Inspectors, to use the “fact finding mission” and information gleaned from the public submissions to address the deficiencies in the EIS and planning application, she said. The public therefore had a right to ask: where was the right to “access to justice in environmental matters” as stipulated in Article 1 of the Aarhus Convention?

Ms Marron continued: “Public hearings should not facilitate a “single-sided” approach while the opposition is absent, or where the public is unaware of the matters being proposed by the developer for acceptance by the Board. The only conclusion which the public can justifiably arrive at is that natural justice is being denied, and the whole planning process is therefore undermined. It could be easily construed that this whole planning process was just another ‘let some steam off’ or ‘tick the boxes’ exercise, designed to placate the public, while meeting the ever changing and seemingly flexible criteria of planning legislation to the advantage of the developer.”

She said it was incredible for the Board to allow a developer and its richly rewarded advisors blatantly to deny in public that there would be any health or life-changing impacts on vulnerable elderly people and mothers with autistic family members. She felt it was heart rending and shocking to watch private people who felt forced to outline their own personal family circumstances in a public arena. No attempt had been made to hold any of the public hearing “in camera” or in private, which was normal practice to accommodate people when issues of a sensitive nature were being considered.

She pointed out that throughout the oral hearing the developer had been seen to request the Board to ignore the established planning standards, regulations and laws, which had been strictly adhered to and implemented by planning authorities both at local and national level, and to allow the developer to carry out pre-construction verification surveys as a solution to their failure to carry out onsite surveys. This was not a solution which could be applied in drumlin topography and it had the added danger of setting a new precedent i.e. that established planning regulations could be totally ignored in future major development proposals.

The failings of desktop studies, aerial photography and LiDAR orthophotography were emphasised throughout the oral hearing process and were shown to be totally ineffective in identifying features on the ground. Some of the proposals provided by the developer to gain access over hedgerows and drains were farcical, totally inappropriate and bordering on the ridiculous.

The suggestions for transport of vast volumes of concrete and washing down of dumpers were equally absurd. The use of mini-diggers to gain access underneath enclosed hedgerows and rock surrounded entrances was impractical, yet the authenticity of such proposals was not questioned by the inspectors in most instances. Were members of the public present at the hearing expected to believe that what was being proposed by the developer was actually feasible, she asked.

In the opinion of the CMAPC, the EIS and planning application did not provide a neutral observer with objective, concise, and adequate detailed evidence to justify the destruction of a scenic unspoilt part of the Monaghan landscape. The developer had other options such as the use of more modern HVDC (High Voltage Direct Current) technology which could be put underground along existing infrastructural road networks which are owned by the state. The cumulative costs in terms of destruction of the unique drumlin landscape, the environmental and ecological destruction of protected species and habitats, the negative visual impact from a visitor and tourist perspective, the obtrusive overshadowing of national heritage assets, the increased risk to health and safety and possible fatalities underneath the proposed line, the decimation of house and land values along the alignment were some of the factors which in their view substantially outweighed the likely benefits of the proposed overhead 400kV power line.

The incompatible visual intrusion of industrial scale large steel pylon structures up to 52 metres high with the drumlin countryside would detract from the attractive rural character, appearance, amenity and setting of the landscape. It would be contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of County Monaghan.

CMAPC were requesting the Board to consider the recovery of costs incurred by the public in this second planning application process and asking for a mechanism to be drawn up by the Board whereby the public and their advisors were reimbursed the fees incurred in participating in the “fact finding process” which had lasted over a number of weeks and months. People had endured considerable stress and emotional torment over an extended period during this entire planning process and were entitled at least to reimbursement of the direct costs associated with the hearing.

In conclusion Ms Marron said the anti-pylon committee had absolutely no doubt about the importance of Co. Monaghan to its residents and the devastating impact EirGrid’s proposal would have on their little bit of heaven. “We believe we do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we merely borrow it from our children and we want to ensure that future generations can inherit and enjoy the unique, unspoiled drumlin landscape, flora and fauna that we are fortunate enough to enjoy. We attended this hearing in good faith; we hope justice will prevail in the end and the Board will reject this planning application”, she said.

NIGEL HILLIS of the CMAPC referred to the government white paper on ‘Ireland’s Transition to a Low Carbon Energy Future 2015 – 2030’ launched in December 2015, which mentioned the need for the interconnector no less than six times. In para. 241 it stated: “The proposed North-South transmission line, which is currently in the planning process, will improve security of supply and reduce electricity transmission costs across the island”. Mr Hillis said it was implicit therein that the line would get planning permission. In his opinion this statement was tantamount to political interference and an attempt to finesse the planning process. It should be seen in that light by you and the Board, he told the presiding inspector.

The developer had stated over and over again that this project was needed for the economic development of the island of Ireland. As we have seen, it is of far greater economic importance to Northern Ireland than to us as they will supposedly run out of power in a few years’ time. So in the sense of economic development it was very much the case of the tail wagging the dog, he said.

Sustainable development in latter years had been very much driven by and embraced by climate change, he said. There had to be a compelling argument that undergrounding the project, which EirGrid’s CEO Fintan Slye had admitted was not only possible, but was also acceptable, was even more worthy of the title sustainable. It integrated and satisfied the three pillars of sustainable development: economic development, social equity and environmental protection. Undergrounding was in fact the most sustainable solution as it totally satisfied this triple bottom line of sustainability.

EirGrid had argued it would cost more to deliver the project underground and he accepted that the ‘nuts and bolts’ capital expenditure would be greater. But Mr Hillis said the affordability of undergrounding had never been examined because a full cost-benefit analysis had never been carried out.

Regarding access to lands along the route, it had been revealed that only 25% had been accessed and they did not even know where or what they are. There was no breakdown as to how much of the land accessed actually would have pylons, how much would have only the wires crossing and how much would be within 50 metres of the line, having neither pylons nor wires. Mr Hillis said in his view this was not proper planning. Indeed the withholding of such details was the antithesis of proper planning because properly informed comment could not be made by the public in the absence of this vital information.

This was now a project of common interest and the very highest standards must apply in both jurisdictions. If NIE or SONI walked into the Northern Ireland planning authorities with their application and said: we have only had access to 25% of the land for environmental surveys, I have no doubt they would be told to take the application away with them and shown the door, said Mr Hillis. In fact a “Consolidated Environmental Statement Addendum” was published in June 2015, the purpose of which was to provide the planning authorities with additional environmental information based on full access to 97% of the land in Armagh and Tyrone.

Mr Hillis noted that An Bord Pleanála had specifically requested that the NI planning documents and in particular the consolidated ES would be appended to EirGrid’s planning application. He requested that the inspectors and the Board took careful note of the huge difference in the quality of the environmental information, due mainly to the fact that 97% of land was accessed not once, but twice, in the N. Ireland section.

He then turned to his own area of expertise, namely construction, and a section in the Environmental Impact Statement regarding the requirement for temporary access tracks. It stated: “for the purposes of this appraisal, all temporary access routes have been assessed based on very wet weather conditions, expansive construction techniques with heavy machinery or equipment”.

Mr Hillis pointed out that only nineteen access points in Monaghan and Cavan and six in Meath were deemed to require temporary access tracks. This was totally ludicrous and nonsensical and was complete and utter guesswork and not evidence based on actual walk-over surveys in very wet weather, he said. He wondered what other areas of the EIS were totally deficient owing to the lack of proper on-site surveys at appropriate times of the year.

With regard to the so called mapping anomalies and incorrect capturing of roadside entrances, Mr Hillis claimed these were semantics in order to cover the fact that the roads had not been not driven on. He claimed the assessment was all done from out-of-date blurry large scale aerial maps on a computer, sitting in an office.

Again as more and more anomalies were brought to light by the landowners the machinery got smaller and smaller: mini diggers and mini piling rigs and concrete unloaded into dumpers ranging from 6 tonnes right down to 3.5 tonnes, the removal and double handling of spoil from sites, but yet the logistics for these operations had not been properly appraised at all. Mr Hillis said during the course of the hearing he had asked for a method statement to be prepared in order to understand better exactly what was entailed in this ever-changing construction methodology. But EirGrid’s barrister had immediately jumped to say that this would be going into excessive and inappropriate detail.

Mr Hillis continued: the Bob the Builder approach constantly taken by the developer (Can we fix it? Yes, we can) had no place at an oral hearing, in particular when the developer was a semi-state body which should have its planning application developed to the highest standards in all respects. The construction methodology had been totally revised in the course of the oral hearing and that section of the EIS was now, in his opinion, totally deficient and not fit for purpose.

He pointed out to the inspectors that in March 2016 an independent review group had published its organisational review of An Bord Pleanála. The review group was chaired by Gregory Jones QC who wrote in his foreword: “Planning is all about shaping the places in which we live. Planning decisions are not always easy. They involve judgements based upon balancing competing interests upon which people may have strongly held and divergent views. The issues are often complex and controversial.”

“The way in which planning decisions are taken also involves striking a balance between many factors. Some of these factors pull in different directions. We want planning decisions to be taken by people of integrity. We want decisions-takers to have fully considered the evidence and for their decisions to be soundly and carefully reasoned. We want everyone to have had a fair say.”

“Many challenges, such as, providing sufficient housing, securing sustainable economic growth, environment protection and addressing climate change, are shared by us all. In meeting these challenges countries can learn from one another. On the other hand, successful planning systems must also be fine-tuned to reflect the culture and values of the country and people they serve. One size does not fit all.”

The foreword by Mr Jones ends: “An Bord Pleanála enjoys a well-deserved high reputation for its integrity and professionalism. It is an internationally unique body playing a vital role in the planning system of Ireland. I consider it an honour and great responsibility to have been appointed to chair this Review.”

Mr Hillis addressed his closing remarks to the presiding inspector: “I don’t know, Madam Inspector, if you consider it an honour or not to have been appointed to this case or indeed if you simply just picked the short straw. But you do have a great responsibility, which cannot be abdicated, and I would ask you to dwell on those words of Gregory Jones QC. In particular, has everyone had a fair say at every stage of the process and does this application reflect the culture and values of the people that EirGrid are mandated to serve?”

“I ask you to give very careful and serious consideration if this strategic infrastructure application is indeed in accordance with proper planning and sustainable development in the linear area through which it is proposed to be sited. Whether that be the royal county of Meath, the intangible cultural areas of Loughanleagh and Muff in Cavan or the unique drumlins and scenic small lakes of Monaghan and indeed on the land of each and every landowner (big and small) on which it is proposed to be sited. I would respectfully submit to you that on the basis of the information gathered at this oral hearing it very definitely is not in accordance with proper planning and sustainable development.”

COLETTE MCELROY, Ballintra, again expressed concern about the proposed construction 475m from her house of a pylon with 400kV wires. She repeated her worries about the noise that would emanate from the lines, especially in wet weather and the impact the development would have on health.

EIRGRID have previously responded that during standard conditions there would be no significant noise emission from the overhead lines, but during wet conditions, corona noise might occur. The company said (using international standard methodologies) this noise was not predicted to cause significant impact at sensitive receptors. But for people with noise sensitivity, there was a need to consider this on a case-by-case basis.

MONAGHAN POLITICIANS

CAOIMGHÍN Ó CAOLÁIN TD, Sinn Féin deputy for Cavan-Monaghan, said the lives, hopes, plans and ambitions of people had been suspended in midair for the past nine years as a result of the application. If EirGrid thought the repeated statements that had been made favouring an underground route were a bluff, then let them call their bluff and they would see how strong the support was for undergrounding the interconnector.

He said the health risks from the proposed interconnector were real, as were the fears of local people. Over the past nine years the plans had caused stress on individuals, families and communities. He again raised concerns about the impact on the environment, on agriculture, on property and land valuation, as well as the effects it would have on tourism in the five coubnties affected.

He said his party was just one of the many political voices that had unanimously opposed the overhead lines. The EirGrid plan was also collectively challenged by the three County Councils in Monaghan, Cavan and Meath. An Bord must take note of their written and oral presentations on the project, he said. In 31 years as an elected representative he had rarely seen such a crass example of corporate bullying than had been demonstrated by EirGrid.

CLLR SEAN GILLILAND said the EirGrid application was “upside down” and it was the local community who had turned it upside down by showing its flaws especially regarding access routes and plans to build pylons on ground that EirGrid had not been able to access. He asked the inspectors and Bord Pleanála to let the people of Monaghan Cavan and Meath back to their normal lifestyle by rejecting the plan. The nature of the application was an insult to the people, to the inspectors and to the Board, he said.

Cllr Gilliland again claimed that photomontages produced by EirGrid at a number of locations were selective, using narow angle lenses so that in some cases the proposed pylons were hidden behind hedgerows, gateposts or road signs. On other occasions a wide angle lens had been used when it suited.

JOERG SCHULZE, the lanscape architect consultant for EirGrid previously pointed out in response to Cllr Gilliland and others that the photomontages had been taken at designated viewpoints on the public road. All had been produced in accordance with the relevant Landscape Institute guidelines for landscape and visual impact assessment.

NEPPC SUBMISSIONS

PADRAIG O’REILLY of the North East Pylon Pressure Campaign told the inspectors the EirGrid planning application remained invalid and should be rejected. Dr O’Reilly said multiple changes to the application that had been made during the eleven weeks oral hearing were an unacceptable waste of public monies. He said An Bord Pleanála had a duty not only to reject the application outright, but to direct that an appropriate alternative be considered for the future.

Dr O’Reilly said the application had been in the public domain for almost a year since it was submitted to An Bord Pleanála last June. In the past ten weeks the plan had been laid bare at the hearing. NEPPC which represented around 200 landowners mainly in Meath said its position in June 2015 was that this was an application so inadequate and deficient in so many aspects that it should never have been accepted as a valid application by the competent authority of An Bord Pleanála.

Now that the hearing was ending, the group’s position was that the application was even more inadequate, deficient and by default invalid than had originally been realised. The significant changes, errata, omissions and admissions made during the oral hearing were a testament to this invalidity and to the fatally flawed contents of the application. The legitimacy of the application and indeed of the applicant was therefore tarnished beyond redemption.

Dr O’Reilly said EirGrid to this day had refused to carry out the relevant analysis and costing of a site-specific underground high voltage DC cable solution along public roads. It followed from this fact that the planning application had failed to include an objective consideration of alternatives, and this fact alone should render the entire application invalid.

EirGrid was unaware of the latest publication from the European underground cable manufacturers representative body – Europacable – highlighting and proving their argument that an appropriate HVDC cable could easily be accommodated along the roads of the North-East. This publication had to be handed to EirGrid by the NEPPC.

According to the NEPPC, EirGrid’s blatant disregard for the whole process of consultation was on display at the hearing for the last ten weeks. Over fifty access route changes onto farmers’ lands were made during the hearing. No landowner notification, let alone consultation, occurred prior to any of these announcements. In fact the landowners affected by the first five announcements on Day One were never even informed until three weeks later.

There was a refusal by the company to make any attempt, such as public notices or other forms of media, to inform affected landowners promptly. There was also a refusal to put any of these changes on its website, until reluctantly consenting to do so at the very end of the hearing.

Significant changes had been made to the planning application during the course of the hearing. The Board had refused to clarify if these proposed changes were being accepted. This raised critical questions such as: why are significant changes to the planning application being entertained at this late stage? And why was there a refusal to date to clarify if the changes would be accepted?

NEPPC claimed EirGrid had taken an ‘a la carte’ approach to the planning application. For example there were now a series of options regarding access routes, guarding construction methods, concrete delivery methods, off-loading concrete, traffic movements and traffic management options, and a choice of forestry clearfelling, namely manual versus mechanical. This approach accoding to the group was contrary to all normal planning guidelines and instructions for the rest of the country.

The oral hearing process shone the spotlight on the glaring deficiencies in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The only rational conclusion that could be drawn was that the EIS was so deficient as to render it impossible to arrive at an adequate Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

The NEPPC pointed out that EirGrid was unable to access at least 75% of the lands for which it intends to construct over 300 massive pylons. The Environmenal Impact Statement was thus 75% deficient in detailed site-specific information on such critical aspects as flora and fauna and soil geology. Finally, EirGrid had interviewed only 5% of the landowners on whose lands it required access and co-operation. For these reasons, Dr O’Reilly said, the Board had a duty not only to reject the application outright, but to direct that an appropriate alternative be considered for the future.

AIMÉE TREACY, Chairperson of the NEPPC, spoke on behalf of concerned residents groups in Co. Meath. She said EirGrid had given no prior notice nor had they been in consultation with landowners before they made more than fifty changes to the original planning application, most of them alternative access routes for construction. She described the application as deeply flawed and claimed it was invalid. It would never be accepted by the public, she said. Her contribution was applauded by the large crowd of observers.

Dr COLIN ANDREW of the NEPPC said the EirGrid application had been catastrophically flawed from the outset. EirGrid representatives had prevaricated and filibustered and refused to give straight ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ answers to questions raised by observers. He said the application had not shown that there would be any benefit to the electricity consumer by building the interconnector.

MEATH POLITICIANS

PEADAR TÓIBÍN TD Sinn Féin deputy for Meath West said the Board now had an opportunity to put the rights of citizens and of the community at the centre of the planning process. He claimed EirGrid were stealing equity away from families by attempting to put pylons on their property.

REGINA DOHERTY TD, government Chief Whip and Fine Gael deputy for Meath East called on An Bord Pleanála when making their decision to take into account the impact the plan would have on real lives, which she said could not be underestimated. She said that EirGrid had behaved with what could only be described as arrogance, and with very little respect for the public, the affected communities and landowners.

She told the inspectors it was almost exactly ten years since she first attended a public meeting in Trim, organised by the NEPPC, for the initial proposal for the North-South interconnector. “I find it incredibly difficult to fathom, exactly how EirGrid, ten years later, have made so many last minute, but substantial, changes to their planning application, despite having had six years since their initial application to An Bord Pleanála”, she said.

Ms Doherty continued: “For the second time, we have seen a planning application from EirGrid which is inherently flawed, in the form of what one can only assume to be carefully choreographed changes to fifty access routes, which have left both members of the public, and affected landowners, completely in the dark. As a result, we have been left unable to engage with these changes. I am reliably informed that some affected landowners have not even been notified by EirGrid as to these changes, despite EirGrid stating otherwise.”

“EirGrid, has essentially robbed Meath landowners and communities from being able to partake in what should have been a thoroughly democratic and transparent public consultation. I also share the confusion which was voiced in the room as to whether the Board will be adjudicating upon this planning application either with, or without, the extensive amendments to access routes presented by EirGrid.”

Ms Doherty said in conclusion: “I again echoed the striking absence of a fully costed alternative undergrounding, or partial undergrounding, of the interconnector, which, in and of itself, most are in agreement is a much needed upgrade to our critical national infrastructure. We cannot, and will not, take EirGrid on its word, that undergrounding is not feasible for long-term viability and sustainability reasons.”

 GOVERNMENT WHITE PAPER

KEVIN BRADY, Principal Officer in charge of Strategic Energy Policy at the former Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, said a white paper on energy (Ireland’s Transition to a Low carbon Energy Future) was published in December last year, setting out a vision and framework for energy policy from 2015-2030. He said Ireland valued its relationship with Northern Ireland including energy matters and they were part of an all-island electricity market. Mr Brady said the need for an appropriate energy infrastructure including interconnectors underpinned all energy policy. But the government was not seeking to determine specific details of the interconnector scheme or to direct EirGrid about particular sites, routes or technology.

A second interconnector would fulfil the three core energy policy requirements of competitiveness, security of supply and sustainability. The proposal had been designated as an EU project of common interest. They needed to ensure there was access to wider markets and both Ireland and Northern Ireland would benefit from security of supply by having a single system across the island, Mr Brady said.

EIRGRID CLOSING SUBMISSION

BRIAN MURRAY SC for EirGrid set out the reasons why a second North-South overhead interconnector was required. It was necessary to overcome the risk of system separation and to increase transfer capacity between the two electricity transmission systems on the island. It would help achieve the objectives of improving market competition in the context of the Single Electricity Market, to support the development of renewable power generation and to improve security of supply. “These are absolutely critical objectives”, he said.

Mr Murray re-stated the support for the proposal which had been voiced by government in its white paper on energy and other key stakeholders who had made presentations at the hearing. “Garrett Blayney of the Commission for Energy Regulation said that there was a ‘clear and pressing need for the construction of the interconnector as quickly as possible and in a cost efficient manner’. Mr Owen Wilson of the Electricity Supply Association said that ‘failure or delayed delivery of the North- South Interconnector risks significant damage to Ireland’s national interest’.”

“Mr Neil Walker of IBEC gave evidence that IBEC wished to see the interconnector proceed as proposed, as it will be of real benefit for all electricity users and the wider economy. Mr Iain Hoy of the Northern Ireland CBI said that successful construction was ‘vital to protect security of existing supply, facilitate competition of SEM and reduce costs’. Similar evidence was given by Mark O’Mahoney of Chambers Ireland.”

EirGrid’s closing statement outlined the requirement for an overhead, 400 kV Alternating Current (AC) interconnector. Mr Murray said the use of Direct Current (DC) as opposed to AC current had been considered. A DC option would not provide the same level of reliability and security of supply as an AC solution. A DC solution would be suboptimal. The complexity of the system required to accommodate a DC link introduced a big risk that things could go wrong, as Project Manager Aidan Geoghegan had explained. There was no example of a comparable HVDC scheme embedded in an AC system.”

EirGrid’s view was that the proposed 1500MW capacity was required in order to provide adequate contingency in the event of a failure of the existing interconnector. It was also necessary to provide sufficient additional capacity to allow the longer term sustainable development of the network as demand for electricity grew both in the region and on the island of Ireland.

Mr Murray continued: “Cost is certainly a relevant and important consideration. EirGrid is mandated by statute to develop the national grid in a manner that is safe, secure and cost effective. A DC underground cable would cost €670m more than the proposed AC overhead line”. However, contrary to what had been said repeatedly at the hearing, cost was not the only consideration.

“It is not technically feasible to underground the entire interconnector using AC cable. This is because the distance is simply too great for an AC underground cable of the size and power carrying capacity required for this project to operate safely”, the lawyer for EirGrid explained.

Mr Murray also spoke of the environmental considerations in the proposal. “The potential for impacts on designated European sites (River Boyne and River Blackwater) have been comprehensively assessed in the Natura Impact Statement. It has been clearly established that no structures or works will be located within these or any designated European sites. Mitigation by avoidance at the design stage, in addition to effective and proven robust mitigation measures, must lead to the conclusion that there will be no impacts on the integrity of any designated Natura 2000 site.”

Regarding the level of public consultation carried out as part of the project, Mr Murray said “this project has been the subject of exhaustive consultation. It is not and never was a ‘box ticking’ exercise. It is something viewed by EirGrid as central to the future of the project.”

Mr Murray addressed the issue of temporary access routes, which had been raised on several occasions during the hearing. “The access routes do not form part of the development. Therefore, no part of the development has changed in any way in the course of the hearing. The access routes are included as part of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). For that reason, EirGrid has quite properly taken account of information gathered in the course of that process.”

“It is in this context that EirGrid brought a number of access routes to the attention of the attendees at the hearing in order to enable the Board to assess the modifications proposed to those access routes. These have been advised to affected landowners.”

EirGrid said it had considered all potential deviations or mapping discrepancies, whether those issues arose from the EIS access route mapping or the larger-scale landowner mapping. The review process had revisited aerial imagery, landowner access mapping and EIS figures with follow-up vantage surveys, as necessary, according to Mr Murray.

He concluded: “EirGrid submits that the second North-South interconnector is a project which is critically necessary. It is a project which we believe can only be sustainably developed in the manner proposed, and it is a project which minimises adverse impacts to the greatest extent possible.”

Referring to the court case brought by the NEPPC seeking to halt the oral hearing, Brian Murray SC said the inspectors would recall that on the eve of the hearing, some observers sought to halt it, and repeated that application before the hearing. Thus on Thursday May 12th, just as the submissions were concluding, the High Court delivered its judgement on the application for leave to seek judicial review.

The High Court determined, effectively, that the various grounds which had been raised before it were (save for PCI) in the first instance matters properly for An Bord Pleanála to determine rather than for the High Court. Mr Murray said that did not preclude a judicial review on those grounds following a decision of the Board if the application was granted. But it did mean that it was the Board which must decide those issues first, on the basis of the facts and evidence it has before it.

The application to build a 400kV overhead line with almost 300 pylons stretching 135km from Meath to Tyrone was made to the Board in June last year. It has been examined in detail at the oral hearing that began in March and lasted 35 days. It was one of the biggest ever such enquiries into what is said to be the largest single infrastructure development in the state in recent years. The inspectors will now prepare a report for the Board, which is expected to announce its decision towards the end of this year.

A preliminary hearing under the auspices of the Planning Appeals Commission in Northern Ireland will take place in Armagh next month. This first stage will discuss legal and procedural issues surrounding the SONI application for the 34km section of the interconnector with 102 pylons from Crossreagh, Co. Armagh (near Clontibret) to Turleenan near the Moy in Co. Tyrone, where a substation is due to be built.

INTERCONNECTOR DAY35

EIRGRID DEFENDS INTERCONNECTOR PLAN AS ORAL HEARING ENDS

Michael Fisher

EirGrid has been accused of bullying and of showing disregard and disrespect for landowners, famers and residents in Meath, Cavan and Monaghan affected by the company’s plan to build a second North/South electricity interconnector. Government Chief Whip Regina Doherty TD (Meath East) along with two Sinn Féin TDs were among a dozen people (including EirGrid) who made closing submissions to the two inspectors at an oral hearing in Carrickmacross. Ms Doherty called on An Bord Pleanála when making their decision to take into account the impact the plan would have on real lives, which she said could not be underestimated.

The application to build a 400kV overhead line with almost 300 pylons stretching 135km from Meath to Tyrone was made to the Board in June last year. It has been examined in detail at the oral hearing that began in March and lasted 35 days. It was one of the biggest ever such enquiries into what is said to be the largest single infrastructure development in the state in recent years.

Sinn Féin Meath West TD Peadar Tóibín said the Board now had an opportunity to put the rights of citizens and of the community at the centre of the planning process. He claimed EirGrid were stealing equity away from families by attempting to put pylons on their property.

His party colleague from Cavan/Monaghan Caoimghín Ó Caoláin TD said the lives, hopes, plans and ambitions of people had been suspended in midair for the past nine years as a result of the application. If EirGrid thought the repeated statements that had been made favouring an underground route were a bluff, then let them call their bluff and they would see how strong the support was for undergrounding the interconnector.

The anti-pylon group North East Pylon Pressure Campaign told the inspectors the EirGrid planning application remained invalid and should be rejected. Dr Padraig O’Reilly said multiple changes to the application that had been made during the eleven weeks oral hearing were an unacceptable waste of public monies. He said An Bord Pleanála had a duty not only to reject the application outright, but to direct that an appropriate alternative be considered for the future.

Now that the hearing was ending, the group’s position was that the application was even more inadequate, deficient and by default invalid than had originally been realised in June 2015. The significant changes, errata, omissions and admissions made during the oral hearing were a testament to this invalidity and to the fatally flawed contents of the application. The legitimacy of the application and indeed of the applicant was therefore tarnished beyond redemption.

NEPPC claimed EirGrid had taken an ‘à la carte’ approach to the planning application. For example there were now a series of options regarding access routes, guarding construction methods, concrete delivery methods, off-loading of concrete, traffic movements and traffic management options. This approach according to the group was contrary to all normal planning guidelines and instructions for the rest of the country.

Margaret Marron of the County Monaghan Anti-Pylon Committee claimed EirGrid, a semi-state company, had used taxpayers’ money arbitrarily to focus exclusively on their own narrow-minded objective, which was to build the power line overground on pylons, with absolutely no regard for what the affected communities or their political representatives though.

Ms Marron said to allow a developer and its richly rewarded advisors to deny blatantly in public there would be any health or life-changing impacts on vulnerable elderly people and mothers with autistic family members was incredible. It was heart- rending she said to watch private people who felt forced to outline their own personal family circumstances in a public arena; it was shocking to those present. No attempt was made to hold any of the public hearing “in camera” or in private, which is normal practice to accommodate people when issues of a sensitive nature were being considered.

Nigel Hillis of CMAPC submitted that undergrounding was the most sustainable solution. The developer had argued that it would cost more to deliver the project underground and his group accepted that the ‘nuts and bolts’ capital expenditure would be greater. But the affordability of undergrounding had never been examined, he said, because a full cost-benefit analysis had never been carried out.

Mr Hillis said the construction methodology for the pylons and lines had been totally revised in the course of the oral hearing. That section of the Environmental Impact Statement was now, in his opinion, totally deficient and not fit for purpose. He went on: “the Bob the Builder approach constantly taken by the developer: Can we fix it? Yes, we can, has no place at an oral hearing and in particular when the developer is a semi-state body who should have its planning application developed to the highest standards in all respects.”

Dr Colin Andrew of the NEPPC said the EirGrid application had been catastrophically flawed from the outset. EirGrid representatives had prevaricated and filibustered and refused to give straight ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ answers to questions raised by observers. He said the application had not shown that there would be any benefit to the electricity consumer by building the interconnector.

Kevin Brady, Principal Officer in charge of Strategic Energy Policy at the former Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, said a white paper on energy (Ireland’s Transition to a Low carbon Energy Future) was published in December last year, setting out a vision and framework for energy policy from 2015-2030. He said Ireland valued its relationship with Northern Ireland including energy matters and they were part of an all-island electricity market. Mr Brady said the need for an appropriate energy infrastructure including interconnectors underpinned all energy policy. But the government was not seeking to determine specific details of the interconnector scheme or to direct EirGrid about particular sites, routes or technology.

A second interconnector would fulfill the three core energy policy requirements of competitiveness, security of supply and sustainability. The proposal had been designated as an EU project of common interest. They needed to ensure there was access to wider markets and both Ireland and Northern Ireland would benefit from security of supply by having a single system across the island, Mr Brady said.

EIRGRID CLOSING SUBMISSION

EirGrid as the applicant was given the last word to explain why a 400kV alternating current (AC) overhead interconnector was a key part of Ireland’s energy future. A lawyer for the company Brian Murray SC said the proposed infrastructure was necessary to overcome the risk of system separation and to increase transfer capacity between the two electricity transmission systems on the island. It was required to achieve the absolutely critical objectives of improving market competition in the context of the Single Electricity Market, to support the development of renewable power generation and to improve the security of supply.

Mr Murray said the use of Direct Current (DC) as opposed to AC current was considered. A DC option would be suboptimal as it would not provide the same level of reliability and security of supply as an AC solution. He said there was no example of a comparable HVDC scheme embedded in an AC system. Mr Murray also spoke of the environmental considerations in the proposal.

On public consultation carried out as part of the project, Mr Murray said “this project has been the subject of exhaustive consultation. It is not and never was a ‘box ticking’ exercise”. Mr. Murray addressed the issue of temporary access routes, which was raised on several occasions during the hearing.

He said the access routes did not form part of the development. Therefore, no part of the development had changed in any way in the course of the hearing. The access routes had been included as part of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). For that reason, EirGrid had quite properly taken account of information gathered in the course of that process.

It was in this context, he said, that EirGrid brought a number of access routes to the attention of the attendees at the hearing in order to enable the Board to assess the modifications proposed to those access routes. These had been advised to the affected landowners.

Mr Murray concluded “EirGrid submits that the second North-South Interconnector is a project which is critically necessary. It is a project which we believe can only be sustainably developed in the manner proposed, and it is a project which minimises adverse impacts to the greatest extent possible.”

The inspectors will now prepare a report for the Board, which is expected to announce its decision later this year.

 

 

INTERCONNECTOR DAY26

DAY TWENTY-SIX

This section involved landowners and groups from Co. Monaghan

SEAN DUFFY, Drumguillew Lower, was represented by his mother Mary Duffy as he is in Australia at the moment. He had inherited ten acres of land from his uncle in February 2011. There had been no contact with EirGrid about their plans to build two pylons and a power line near the dwelling house. Mrs Duffy said there was also a plan to put two pylons on her daughter’s land at Drumhowan, one of which EirGrid had now moved across a ditch onto a neighbour’s land.

NIGEL HILLIS of the County Monaghan Anti-Pylon Committee said there could have been another technical solution without moving that particular pylon. He claimed that EirGrid had been in breach of the Aarhus Convention on public consultation and EU directives. The proposed line design stretched back to 2011 and was followed with a preferred solution report and then a final line design that the EirGrid board had approved according to the Chief Executive. The company had years to get it right and after all this they had decided to move eleven of the pylons on the proposed route when the planning application was submitted last year.

BRENDAN MARKEY, Greagh, was represented by Sean Gilliland. He did not want pylons on his land. Cllr Gilliland said the proposed access lane for construction of two pylons on Mr Markey’s land was only 8’6” wide with a water pipe below it and two other pipes alongside. It would most certainly be damaged if heavy machinery used it.

The lane was very special as there were visible badger tracks and badger setts that were monitored by the Department of Agriculture and NPWS. The power line would be a ruination of the rural countryside and way of life.

GABRIEL MOONEY, Greagh, was joined by his father Bernard in making a submission. They had huge concerns over the project. They lived 200m up a lane that EirGrid planned to use to access one of the pylons for construction. The lane was in frequent use by family members daily and they would be disrupted if heavy machinery was going to use the lane. He asked who would be responsible if there was an accident on the lane, or if it gave way under the heavy loads that would have to pass along it. Could EirGrid guarantee the safety of his young children while the proposed work was taking place? He also wondered if the company could guarantee that they would not in their lifetime experience any health effects from living beside the proposed high voltage lines.

He expressed concern that their homes and properties would be devalued and worth next to nothing in future. Nobody would want to live near these grotesque pylons, he said. The lines would destroy totally the aesthetic appearance of their locality.

He concluded: “We are all proud Irish people, proud of our democracy. We have the power to elect our public representatives; we have the power to decide if there are changes to our Constitution. We express our democratic right by voting and we accept the outcome. The people of Monaghan, Cavan and Meath had voted unanimously against this overhead power line. EirGrid should accept this fact and scrap this proposed project”.

LEO MARRON, Greagh, said the pylons would be an attack on our freedom to live according to our own traditions and own choices, currently and into the future. We could no longer sell our property or hand it onto the next generation. We could not develop it as a viable enterprise and make more of it as previous generations did.

I left my parcel of land with an estate agent in February and told him to be open and honest with all inquiries. The land was advertised locally and internationally but there have been no offers. Such is the mistrust that EirGrid have instilled among the people of our community that I took the land off the market as we feared EirGrid would use the opportunity to walk the land and gather information for their own purposes. I have no doubt that the threat of this pylon has affected the value of my land and other properties in the local area.

I face particular challenges with a disability that means I must meticulously plan my work days and weeks ahead and ensure I have adequate support to carry out my daily duties. EirGrid interference would interrupt this planning., becoming another obstacle I could live without and making farming almost impossible for the duration of the construction. The two months stated by EirGrid are only the tip of the iceberg though, as there will be continuous interference by EirGrid for a further three years and ongoing into the future. This will undoubtedly be the end of my way of life.

I have worked for years to increase the productivity of my land, digging shores to dry the land. Still it is soft in places and heavy construction would damage these land drains and undo the work I have laboured so hard over. Can EirGrid inform us here as to the weight of the pylons and measures they would take to mitigate the damage caused to my land? Or are EirGrid even aware of these factors? It appears that EirGrid have not properly assessed the land and have no idea really as to the possible consequences of building a huge pylon in my field. Also I wonder are EirGrid aware of the dangerous blind spot that exists on this apparently straight stretch of road? All households here are aware of how devious this stretch of road is. The heavy construction vehicles and increased traffic that EirGrid will bring will compound factors and make a fatal accident all the more likely. EirGrid have boasted of their strict timetabling of construction. This evidently could place pressure on contractors to reach deadlines and take short cuts on health and safety: which should come first? With so many homes surrounding the construction site I do not trust EirGrid to put the interests of families and children first. Rather it seems that profit and scheduling comes before the people and community. I wish to draw to your attention an article in the Farmers Journal dated October 11th 2014 which described the ESBs laissez-faire approach to pole removal that damaged a contractor’s harvester and left a hole in his pocket. It seems to me that EirGrid’s approach to planning and execution of these pylons will be no better and could leave many farmers out of out of pocket due to similar damage caused. EirGrid have forfeited all confidence in their abilities and no farmer would agree to allow them onto their land to destroy it.

The field on which EirGrid plan to construct this pylon is flat and poses a real and significant eyesore to a number of neighbours. It is cruel and unfair that their homes too should suffer the indignation of this towering pylon and the loss of value to their homes. To EirGrid this is all business and nothing personal but to us it’s very personal.

I also have more land in Ardragh where I am being affected by construction between pylons 190 and 191. The shared lane serves many farms and homes and as such heavy vehicles would pose a significant risk. Damage to the surface of the lane would be inevitable and have unfair and lasting consequences for those who rely on it. Furthermore there is a well that is under the lane which has historical significance that leads back to the famine era and has been minded for generations. I have an uncle who will turn 100 this year and used this well for drinking water from a child. Heavy vehicles would destroy this important piece of heritage and history and I doubt EirGrid are even aware of its existence. There are in fact several other errors in the proposed plan I could point out to EirGrid, but I would feel foolish pointing them out to such educated men.

ANN MCARDLE, Brackley, was represented by her son COLM MCARDLE. He said they were not happy about having pylons on their land. In their original application EirGrid had proposed an access route for construction that went through an embankment onto the pylon field. The access was then changed through their back yard. They wondered how this would affect the milking of cows and moving them around the farm.

BYRNE FAMILY, Brackley

Briege Byrne said the family home sits between proposed Pylon 162 and Pylon 163, The overhead power lines would run for 80 metres along our land and right over our sheep’s house. The overhead power lines will be 62.5 metres from our family home. This is the only land parcel we own and it is home to our livestock.

EirGrid wants to access our land to facilitate stringing of the overhead power line – they do not have our permission to enter our land.

EirGrid wants to use our private entrance to access our land with large, heavy construction machinery. They will have great difficulty navigating in a slope, off a busy main road, on a bad bend; onto wet boggy soft ground all year round which floods regularly.

Quote from EirGrid:

“The 0.7 hectare land parcel with beef enterprise is located in Brackley Co. Monaghan. The sensitivity is medium. There is a yard/farm building located approximately 30 meters north west of the proposed overhead power lines”.

The land parcel is not 0.7 of a hectare; it is only 0.5 of a hectare of land. The farmyard/building is not 30 metres from the overhead power lines it is right under the power lines.

EirGrid propose that they will need 65 metres of an access track to facilitate stringing of overhead Power lines at a loss of 10% of the land parcel. “Pre-mitigation the impact is moderate adverse”.

We use our field by split grazing, so the field is divided in half. The half EirGrid wants to access has our sheep’s house – which will have the overhead power line running over it – and is used to summer graze if possible as this is when it is at its driest, although our sheep will be rotated on it all year round as required.

“The construction disturbance impact is short term (generally less than 12 months) the magnitude of construction impact is low and the significance is slight adverse”.

How can EirGrid say it is short term? This is our home, our lives, our animals; the impact has already commenced and shall be engraved on the land for an eternity. EirGrid want access for 12 months. How are we going to split graze? How are we going to feed our sheep? How are we going to access our sheep’s house? To say the impact is low is hurtful and demoralising.

EirGrid say “There will be a low level of disturbance”.

This is not a true reflection. There will be a high level of disturbance. When EirGrid are finished we will be unable to use our field, we will be unable to feed our sheep, we will be unable to house our sheep and after 12 months of large heavy construction machinery, the land will be more like a building site than a grazing field – it will be ruined and we will be left with our home 62.5 metres from the overhead power line with a view of pylon 162, Pylon 163 and Pylon 164. We have 80 metres of overhead power line on our land, land we cannot use, left sterile due to the health risks this poses on us and our animals along with the constant humming and cracking sound of the overhead power lines. We see all of this as a high level of disturbance.

“There is a high impact on farm buildings and their potential expansion due to location of power lines 30 metres from yard”.

Our farm building is our sheep’s house and it is right under the power lines, this means our sheep cannot be housed in this area. Where shall we house our sheep as we only have a small parcel of land, which means we cannot build on our land.

“The impact magnitude is high and the significance of the residual impact is moderate adverse”. This overhead power line will have an immediate and detrimental impact on our health and the value of our home and land. EirGrid say this will have a low environmental impact. How can they say this? They have not stood on the land and how can they say what the environmental impact an overhead power line will have?

“Hedges land trees may be cut back within 30 metres of the overhead power lines”.

What about the hedgerow on our land? The power lines shall be running over this hedgerow. The hedgerow is home to wildlife and offers a feeding ground for many lives such as birds and bats. The river beside our land runs alongside this hedgerow. What about all the fish and creatures in the water? How can anyone say that there will be a low environmental impact when hedgerows shall be removed and rivers disturbed?

As well as the ground animals and birds we must also look up and realise that we are also on the flight path for swans and ducks. Just over the field from our home lies Barraghy Lake. The swans and ducks fly back and forth on a regular basis. These wires shall be in their direct flight pathway. We are worried that these birds may end up in the wires.

In short this is our field gone, our land gone, no grazing for our sheep, no roaming for our hens, the hedges gone: which has a knock-on effect – no birds, bats rabbits to name a few – the river that runs along the hedge tampered with and in effect gone.

What about our health and the health of our livestock? Our sheep are so close to this overhead power line. How can we be sure they will be safe? Could this cause the sheep to miscarry, have lambs born with deformities? Also our hens roam freely through the field. What about their wellbeing? They supply the family home with eggs – will we be able to keep our hens? Will we be able to consume their eggs? Our spring well is 50 feet from the overhead power lines – can we still use this water? These questions highlight that the environmental risk is high rather than low.

My child visits the family home on a regular basis. How can I visit the family home knowing that I run the risk of putting my child’s health at risk for e.g. leukaemia and other disorders? I cannot do this to the next generation.We should be protecting them not putting them at risk. Life is precious and should be cherished not put at risk because EirGrid want to erect pylons.

Along with my child’s physical wellbeing I am also extremely concerned about the physical and mental wellbeing of my parents, they have reared their children and put a lot of time and love into building a safe environment for me and my siblings and for us to be able to bring our children back to the family home, but this will be shattered. From the day that talk of this interconnection commenced it has had an impact on our emotional wellbeing. We are upset and stressed due to the possible erection of this interconnection. We will have nothing left by the time EirGrid are finished. We also need to be aware that there is a physical strain placed on every single person who is here today and is affected by EirGrid’s proposals. We can see the physical strain on people. We also need to be mindful of the mental strain this project is placing on people; this is very concerning as we sit and listen to families plead for their lands to be left untouched. We are getting a taste of how people feel as we listen to the stories of how a power line can rip through a person and put them under emotional and physical strain. Is it worth putting people under this pressure and strain? The answer is NO!

PEADAR CONNOLLY, Chairman of Lough Egish Community Development Company Ltd that runs the Food Park said overhead pylons would have a detrimental effect on the wellbeing of all in the Aughnamullen community. He explained the history of the food park which he said provided food to people from all corners of the island, from meat to dairy to eggs and dry foods. He pointed out that he had difficulty accessing any environmental impact statement on EirGrid’s web page.

(This was immediately checked by the company’s representatives who told the inspectors all the relevant EIS information had been put on a dedicated website set up at the request of An Bord Pleanála and which was found to be working properly).

Mr Connolly said he was extremely concerned about the adverse effect the overhead power line would have on the food park and the livelihood of local people. EirGrid, he claimed, had failed to demonstrate the safety distance for the food industry and employees regarding EMF emissions from 400kV power lines. He feared that a stigma might arise from the location of their food products not far from the high voltage cables and once it arose then they would be out of business. It was a risk he was not willing or able to take. He urged An Bord to ignore any pressures that might be exerted on them to fast-track the proposed project and to be mindful that the health and wellbeing of all citizens in the affected areas and generations to come were in their hands.

INA and CHARLES HEGAN, Brackley, made a submission in which they said the EirGrid plan would have a number of disastrous consequences for their farm, house, family and livestock. One pylon would be close to the front of their house. There would be a severe visual impact. There would be an immediate and detrimental effect on the value of their farm. The overhead cables would create a substantial risk to using farm machinery. There had been no proper consultation with them, she said.

DOMINIC HARTE, Brackley, also expressed concern about devaluation of his home and property and the visual impact of the pylons. He also questioned whether sufficient provision had been made for flight diverters on the power lines to take account of the flight paths of wildlife at two local lakes. He also enquired about the procedure that would be used for inspecting the power lines, if they got approval.

MICHAEL HALPIN, Barraghy, was represented by Briege Byrne. My home sits between pylons 163 and 164. The power line will run on the edge of my land. EirGrid propose to access pylon 164 by using a lane which is owned by my neighbours Mr and Mrs Charlie Hagan. This lane runs parallel with my own driveway and on past the front door of my house into Mr Hagan’s field where pylon 164 is to be erected. This lane is not capable of taking heavy farm machinery as it is soft ground that runs along a river. From the picture you will see that the edge of the lane which is not defined by a hedgerow is about 4 feet from my front door. This would pose a serious problem for EirGrid. How do they propose to turn in off the road on a bend, go up a soft narrow lane 4 foot from my front door with heavy construction machinery? It is not possible. The machinery would be rubbing off my porch, I would not be fit to use my front doorway. EirGrid will need to cut down my mature trees which are very close to my house. These mature trees are home to a lot of wildlife and bats. This is not acceptable.

Over the last number of years I have spent a lot of time and money updating my house and land. These pylons and overhead power lines are so close to my home that both my home and my land would be worthless, devaluing everything I have worked for. It would leave living in my own home very hard due to the impact on my health and wellbeing.

PAURIC CONNELLY, Barraghy, was represented by Sean Gilliland. EirGrid had not convinced him that there was no medically adverse activity arising from the pylons. The proposed line would be a desecration of the landscape.

Cllr Gilliland asked if EirGrid could inform the hearing how much his land would be devalued if the project was allowed. He had very real concerns and wanted to know if he would get planning permission for any sites to provide new homes if they were near the power lines.

EILEEN MCGUIGAN a neighbour said her home was her castle. She had six grandchildren and was concerned about possible health hazards if a pylon was built nearby. “No pylons—NO-NO-NO!” she stressed. She was applauded as she concluded.

PHIL GEOGHEGAN, Drumillard, was represented by Sean Gilliland. Mr Geoghegan shared access to his holding with seven other people. It was a private lane and they had all contributed to tarring it and contributing to the upkeep. If damage was caused by contractors’ traffic using the lane for access to a pylon construction site, he wanted to know who would pay for it? Mr Geoghegan was totally and utterly opposed to the proposed pylon on his land. Cllr Gilliland pointed out that there were already three power lines crossing his farm and now there could be seven or eight. There would not be much room left on his land holding. He also mentioned that problems had arisen regarding compensation at another infrastructure development in the county.

PATRICK MARRON, was also represented by Sean Gilliland.

Mr Marron, a farmer, had not received any information to date from EirGrid regarding a plan to use part of his land as a guarding location for one of the pylons. He was anxious about this and wondered how EirGrid had managed to put in a planning application without conculting the person who owned the ground for the planned tower. Cllr Gilliland also pointed out that the proposed access route belonged to someone else, a Mr Connolly (see below).

ROBERT ARTHUR of ESB International said in many instances access to pylons went across third party land. He would endeavour to get the details regarding that particular holding.

SEAN GILLILAND pointed out that this landowner was known to EirGrid as maps had been sent to him regarding the previous application. So the company was very well aware of the owner. There had been correspondence with Mr Marron in December 2013, so this was not a case where EirGrid was not aware of who owned the parcels of land.

PATRICK CONNOLLY, Tooa, a landowner, told the hearing he had not received any communication from EirGrid regarding a proposed access route to pylon 170 on the land of the Ward family. When this divergence of opinion became clear a coffee break was called by the presiding inspector.

Upon investigation, EirGrid lawyer Jarlath Fitzsimons said a letter had been sent by tracked mail to Damian and Patrick Connolly on 29th May 2015. It was delivered on to an address at Tooey, Shantonagh, Castleblayney at 9:31am on 4th June 2015, according to a postal track and trace.

Cllr Gilliland said it was strange that a separate letter had not gone out to the two names on the holding, if two parties were involved. He continued to press for information about the proposed access routes that were being used to pylons. One of them, he said, was so overgrown that you could not even wheel a wheelbarrow in there, let alone deliver any concrete unless it was in a bucket.

Following this exchange EirGrid introduced new information regarding seven access routes and eleven minor changes arising from map inaccuracies.

JARLATH FITZSIMONS SC for EirGrid said the application before the Board was for an overhead line and there was no proposal to underground the line. Let’s be clear about it, he told the inspectors. He also said a number of issues raised regarding land valuation, health and tourism had already been answered in previous modules.

INTERCONNECTOR LATEST

PLANNING INQUIRY ON EIRGRID NTERCONNECTOR TO HEAR VIEWS OF ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES

Michael Fisher

As the Bord Pleanála hearing into the proposed EirGrid North/South interconnector reaches the half way stage, public representatives will tomorrow (Monday) be asked to give their views on the development. A number of TDs from Meath and Monaghan along with local Councillors are expected to give evidence to the two inspectors in Carrickmacross. The oral hearing began on March 7th with an overview of the project and the views of the planners from the three counties involved. It’s expected to last a further five weeks, hearing mainly submissions from individual landowners.

EirGrid wants to erect a 400kV high voltage overhead line with 300 pylons extending from a substation at Woodland in Co. Meath near Dunshaughlin through part of Cavan and into Co. Monaghan, crossing the border near Clontibret. The Northern Ireland section of the line through Co. Armagh to Moy in Co. Tyrone is subject to a separate planning process. A preliminary public enquiry will be held in Armagh in June to assess the legality of the application by EirGrid subsidiary SONI.

The oral hearing got underway despite a legal move by anti-pylon campaigners to halt the proceedings. The presiding inspector said she was conducting an information gathering exercise and her report would be submitted at the end to the Planning Board for a decision.

In the third week of the hearing anti-pylon groups the NEPPC and Co. Monaghan Anti Pylon Committee withdrew from the proceedings, claiming they had become a farce. This was because EirGrid had added new information to the planning application submitted last June concerning 25 new or amended access routes out of a total of 584. These would be used by machinery carrying concrete and other material to the sites of the proposed pylons, mainly located in agricultural land. The hearing was told EirGrid had been granted access to only one quarter (25%) of the proposed sites in Meath, Cavan and Monaghan, owing to the strident opposition of local landowners.

Driving along some of the proposed route today the notices could still be found at various points such as Brittas, Donaghpatrick and Teltown in Meath (close to the historic Tailteann games site), as well as Shantonagh and Aughnamullen (Lough Egish) in Co. Monaghan, telling EirGrid staff or representatives to keep out of the fields. This meant the consultants for the semi-state company could not walk the ground and had to make use of other measures to draw up their reports on the proposed route, such as aerial photos, photomontages and views taken from the public road and ordnance survey maps, as well as Google earth material. There was some discussion about whether the photomontages taken at the Hill of Tara gave a true reflection of the impact of the line, which would be some 6km away from the historic site in the middle distance.

EirGrid told the hearing on day two that the temporary routes would not involve excavation or the laying of stones or wooden sleepers. Instead rubber mats or aluminium tracks would be laid on land required to gain access to 299 pylon sites.

Padraig O’Reilly of the North East Pylon Pressure Campaign said the hearing had developed into a charade second time round. A similar oral hearing on the interconnector six years ago ended when a discrepancy was shown in drawings including the height of the proposed towers in Co. Monaghan and EirGrid withdrew the application.

Meanwhile a legal action by the NEPPC, representing almost 200 landowners mainly in County Meath, went ahead at the High Court in Dublin. It is challenging the validity of the application. Mr Justice Humphreys is due to give a decision before May 12th on whether he will allow a judicial review.

Over 900 submissions comprising over 2000 people and some community groups were made to An Bord Pleanála. Most of them objected to the overhead power lines and pylons and called for them to be placed underground. The EirGrid project manager said last week the underground cable Direct Current (DC) option was the least preferred, primarily on the basis of cost effectiveness, its poor ability to facilitate future grid connections and because it would not be considered as complying with best international practice.

INTERCONNECTOR DAY9

This section dealt with construction, including temporary access routes

At the start of the hearing on Wednesday, presiding inspector Breda Gannon said she understood the concerns and difficulties expressed the previous day about the new information on temporary access routes that had been presented by EirGrid. She said she had decided to continue the hearing, the purpose of which was to act as an information gathering exercise to explore complex matters. She repeated her comments on the opening day, that the ultimate decision on the application rested with An Bord Pleanála, which would consider all matters raised and would have a number of options open to it. Her role was not to make a ruling on an item by item basis, she said. She invited observers and EirGrid to continue discussion on the construction module.

A lawyer for the NEPPC Michael O’Donnell BL said he had to accept the ruling but asked the inspector if she would agree to adjourn proceedings to allow an application to be made in court. This was rejected. The inspector said the NEPPC could continue to participate at any stage.

Robert Arthur of ESB International gave more details of the type of towers along the line, including a number of angle towers. Another ESBI consultant Jarlath Doyle explained details of the construction process, including the types of vehicles that would be used to bring concrete into fields where the steel pylons would be erected. It was also explained that ‘durabase’ matting was to be laid where necessary to provide access for vehicles in fields. These could be left in place for the duration of the construction process.

As an affected landowner with a pedigree Charolais herd on the family’s farm, Mary Marron of the CMAPC wanted to know if that meant the matting would be there for a span of three years. She called on EirGrid to be more specific about the fences that would be used to keep livestock away from the construction sites. Who was going to be responsible for the livestock and to whom could they address any queries relating to construction issues. It seemed that EirGrid was expecting each landowner to take responsibility for their animals and that was unacceptable.

Nigel Hillis of CMAPC pointed out that the type of fencing proposed along access routes was unsuitable for an agricultural setting. The pictures provided by EirGrid showed individual units of steel fencing joined together and anchored in blocks. He said such fencing was designed to keep people out, not animals and it would not stop a bull knocking it down. There was no proposal by the company to put up staked fencing with barbed wire, which is what farmers would use on their land.

Regarding the methodology used by the EirGrid consultants to investigate proposed access routes, Mr Hillis asked one of them if he had put on wellingtons and walked the dotted line shown on one of the maps leading to a proposed pylon site. He declined to answer the question. Some of his colleagues gave details later of how aerial photography combined with more recent Google mapping had allowed them to examine the possible routes, without having to contact landowners and access individual holdings.

Mr Hillis observed that the methodology of getting access to pylon sites was totally wrong. He explained that their committee had met on Tuesday evening and had decided they would not be returning as a group to the first part of the oral hearing.

Before departing Mary Marron said landowners should have been made aware of proposed changes. She asked EirGrid to provide proper photos of the type of machinery that would be used to access the pylon sites and asked for maps to show where matting would be laid. She requested the company to provide specific information on these issues.

Monaghan County Council senior planner Toirleach Gourley raised a number of questions with EirGrid about the details shown in some of the maps they had provided about the route of the line. He said the company had made an insufficient response to the concerns the Council had raised in their response to the planning application last August. Mr Gourley claimed a number of photomontages had limited legibility, such as one showing the point where the interconnector would cross the main N2 road at Annyalla.

A consultant landscape architect Joerg Schulze for EirGrid explained how he had drawn up the proposed route for the line, taking into account the relevant constraints such as avoiding residential areas where possible, sites of archaeological importance and loughs. In the drumlin landscape of County Monaghan it was not possible to avoid all drumlins but he believed he had found the best routing possible.

Mr Gourley said he was not convinced that putting pylons along the top of drumlins such as near Lough Egish was the ultimate choice. The planner also pointed out that Monaghan County Council had received no drawings showing the height and colour of the temporary buildings (portakabins) which EirGrid proposed to erect at a construction material storage yard beside the N2 at Monaltyduff/Monatybane outside Carrickmacross.